The term “backcountry skiing” really encompasses two distinct disciplines, telemark or free-heel skiing, and alpine touring (AT) or randoneé skiing. Recent technological advances in both binding systems have led to a surge of skier traffic on both remote backcountry and more accessible sidecountry slopes.
AT VS. Tele
Alpine Touring (AT)
AT technology has exploded in the past few years, resulting in binding systems that are more versatile and are usually compatible with alpine boots. These new AT bindings make it super easy for strong resort skiers to exit through a resort’s gate, take a few laps in the sidecountry, then head back in-bounds--all with the same gear set-up.
The original 19th century ski binding design came from the Telemark region of Norway. Since then, telemark bindings have incorporated a lot of technology from AT bindings to increase stability and accommodate more powerful turns. While telemarking’s legacy takes skiers back to the root of the sport, today’s telemark bindings are decidedly modern, boasting a free pivot for climbing, and an efficient support system for telemarking’s distinct downhill turn style.
One trend we’re noticing is more people skiing telemark in-bounds, while skiing AT out-of-bounds.” Whatever backcountry binding style you prefer, you’ll first need to decide if you want your bindings to be about power or efficiency first. Do you spend a lot of time climbing uphill, or is all about the down?